The Air Force fight song just became completely gender-neutral

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Graduates march to their seats during the graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy, Colorado, May 24, 2017.

Graduates march to their seats during the graduation ceremony at the Air Force Academy, Colorado, May 24, 2017.

The Air Force made its fight song completely gender-neutral on Friday, in a move that Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said is meant to capture the role women play in the modern service.

“These new lyrics speak more accurately to all we do, all that we are and all that we strive to be as a profession of arms,” Goldfein said in a statement on Friday. “They add proper respect and recognition to everyone who serves and who has served.”

The changes come three months after the general announced initial tweaks to the song’s third verse. The new changes announced Friday bring the rest of the song in line.

“I also know with absolute certainty and clarity that these changes are about adding to, not subtracting from, who we are,” Goldfein said. “Changing the lyrics in no way diminishes the history and accomplishments of men or dilutes our eternal gratitude for their sacrifice and bravery.”

Below are the complete new lyrics, with changes emphasized in bold:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At ‘em now, Give 'em the gun!
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

(Verse II)
Brilliant minds fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Valiant hands blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew!
Boundless souls dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before and bombers galore. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

(Verse III)
Here's a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of the brave who serve on high.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold.
A toast to the host of those we boast, the U.S. Air Force!

(Verse IV)
Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true;
If you'd live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue!
Fly to fight, guarding the nation's border,
We'll be there, followed by more!
In echelon we carry on.
Oh, nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

And here are what the lyrics used to be, at least as of 2007:

Off we go into the wild blue yonder,
Climbing high into the sun;
Here they come zooming to meet our thunder,
At 'em boys, Give 'er the gun! (Give 'er the gun now!)
Down we dive, spouting our flame from under,
Off with one helluva roar!
We live in fame or go down in flame. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

Minds of men fashioned a crate of thunder,
Sent it high into the blue;
Hands of men blasted the world asunder;
How they lived God only knew! (God only knew then!)
Souls of men dreaming of skies to conquer
Gave us wings, ever to soar!
With scouts before And bombers galore. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

Here's a toast to the host
Of those who love the vastness of the sky,
To a friend we send a message of his brother men who fly.
We drink to those who gave their all of old,
Then down we roar to score the rainbow's pot of gold.
A toast to the host of men we boast, the U.S. Air Force!

Off we go into the wild sky yonder,
Keep the wings level and true;
If you'd live to be a grey-haired wonder
Keep the nose out of the blue! (Out of the blue, boy!)
Flying men, guarding the nation's border,
We'll be there, followed by more!
In echelon we carry on. Hey!
Nothing'll stop the U.S. Air Force!

Goldfein said in February that the change is long overdue. A graduate of the Air Force Academy, he pointed out that the other service academies, Annapolis and West Point, updated their songs to be gender neutral in 2004 and 2008, respectively.

“It is time for us to change,” he said at the time.

An interesting fact: the Air Force song is actually older than the service itself. In 1938, before the Air Force was even its own branch of the military, Liberty magazine sponsored a contest where readers could submit ideas for what should be the official song of the Army Air Corps.

At the last minute, a musician and amateur pilot named Robert Crawford (who purchased a plane for himself so he could get to his concert gigs more easily), sent in “Off We Go,” which the selection committee — made up of Army Air Corps wives, according to the Library of Congress — unanimously selected as the best in the bunch.

Through the decades, even as more and more women served in the Air Force, the song still seemed to recognize the achievements of only male airmen. Until today, that is.